Gardiner’s Darien Jamison takes a swing and watches his ball down the stretch during the KVAC Class B golf semifinal at the Augusta Country Club Monday. Photo by Jennifer Bechard

After a second-place finish in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference last season, the Gardiner golf team and coach Chad Hopkins weren’t about to lower their expectations coming into this season.

The KVAC shootout is between the top two teams in the North and South regions, or four teams overall. And the Tigers expected to be in it.

“Our goal this season was to continue on with what we did last year,” Hopkins said. “We would like to win it all this year. That was our goal going in.”

The Tigers, seeded first in the North region, took a step toward accomplishing it, beating No. 5 Maine Central Institute 8-1 in a KVAC Class B semifinal match at Augusta Country Club to make it to the shootout at Rockland Country Club. They’ll meet the two South representatives and North No. 3 Nokomis, which topped No. 2 Waterville 6.5-2.5 at Waterville Country Club.

In Class A, No. 2 Messalonskee edged No. 3 Cony 6-3 to punch its ticket to the shootout, getting the tiebreaking three points by nipping the Rams by five strokes.

MCI’s Owen Williams watches his putt go in during the KVAC Class B golf semifinal at the Augusta Country Club Monday. Photo by Jennifer Bechard

Gardiner rolled to the win by winning each of the top four matches. Cody Rizzo beat Thomas Parker 2 and 1 in the first match, Cam Bourassa beat Joe Cloutier 3 and 2 in the second, Drew Kelley topped Anna Smith 3 and 2 in the third, and Darien Jamison bested Owen Williams 2-up in the fourth — making a hole-in-one on the 140-yard 15th hole in the process.

“Considering the pressure and the cold weather, I though the team played pretty well,” Hopkins said. “I thought they handled themselves pretty well. … It’s pretty promising, not only going into (the shootout) but into states as well.”

Gardiner improved to 11-0, and has been turning heads in the process.

“Gardiner, to me, might be the favorites based on what I’ve seen,” Nokomis coach Matt Brown said.

His team will have a chance to disrupt that. The Warriors upset the Purple Panthers, getting wins from Sam Smestad over David Barre (No. 1, 3 and 1), Lindsay Cote over Brock Jolicoeur (No. 2, 1-up) and Jacob Hawthorne over Charlie Haberstock (No. 4, 3 and 1).

Brandon Bearce defeated Grady Berry (No. 3, 2 and 1) and Owen Evans topped Shane Shorette (No. 5, 4 and 3) for Waterville. Waterville’s Alex Greatorex and Nokomis’s Isaac Klein halved the sixth match.

“I just wasn’t sure how these kids were going to react (this season),” said Brown, whose team was second in the Class B state tournament last year. “We lost four really good golfers. And they just stepped it up. They respond to adversity, and they just played really great golf when they needed to.”

One of the golfers who returned was Smestad, who shot 44 at Waterville on Monday before firing a 39 to beat Barre in a matchup of two of the KVAC’s best players.

“He was kind of disappointed. I could tell today he wanted to prove to himself he could shoot a really good score,” Brown said. “And he sure did. He had the putts rolling. … He’s a clutch player.”

Even with the 3.5-2.5 advantage in match wins, Nokomis needed to beat Waterville in strokes to seal the victory. With a 188-190 edge, the Warriors had the three points they needed to advance.

“You never know. My team is capable,” he said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen in playoffs.”

Messalonskee cut short Cony’s attempt at an upset after the Rams used their best round of the season just to make it to the semis. The Eagles got wins from Bradley Condon over Alex Stewart (No. 1, 3 and 2), Brandon Condon over Ben Lapierre (No. 2, 5 and 4) and Ben Hellen over Quincy Tobias (No. 3, 2-up), but Cony got wins in the bottom matches from Bobby Stolt over Dylan Cunningham (No. 4, 2-up), Kyle Douin over Mitchell Grant (No. 5, 1-up) and Connor Albison over Duncan Morrell (No. 6, 3 and 2) to even the match wins at three apiece.

It came down to total strokes, and Messalonskee — led by 41s from co-medalists Bradley and Brandon Condon — got the edge.

“I can’t ask anymore of these guys, they’re great,” Cony coach Shawn Johnson said. “They’re disappointed of course, but I can’t be mad at them. We were right there.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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